|Illustration courtesy of Harry Campbell|
In 2010, Venter and his team from the J. Craig Venter Institute achieved a scientific tour de force: the synthesis of a whole bacterial genome (one circular chromosome) and its transplantation into a recipient cell (a mycoplasma). The resulting bacterium was able to grow and multiply thanks to its artificial chromosome. The results were announced during a press conference in May 2010 and published in Science two months later. The long-term goal of the JCVI is not to disprove vitalism, but to design and implant synthetic genomes that can perform specific tasks, such as to produce biofuels. The mycoplasma synthetic genome, which is only slightly different from the original, serves as a proof of concept, paving the way to more important genome (re-)engineering.